10 Tips for Using QuickBooks

The point of using business finance software is to make accounting easier and more reliable. And QuickBooks—in all versions—is an easy program to use. But you can make it easier.

I’ll use QuickBooks Pro, the most popular version, as I give examples. Its home page consists of a graphical flow chart illustrating the most often used functions and how they flow together. Each main section of the program (Customers, Vendors, and Employees) has its own “center,” a page that provides navigational tools for using its features. For example, the Customer Center displays a list of customers and jobs; click on one and you’ll see that entity’s information and a list of relevant transactions. A toolbar at the top takes you to related tasks, such as Excel and Word integration, new transactions, and new customers and jobs.

The Company Snapshot is another usability feature that provides a great deal of information at a glance. You can see your income and expenses graphed; tables displaying account balances, customers who owe money, and vendors to pay; and alerts. This page is a great way to start your business day, since you can see quickly what accounting tasks need to be tackled soon.

There are other ways, though, to speed up and simplify your interaction with QuickBooks.

1. Use keyboard shortcuts.

Just as in other Windows-based applications, there are numerous keyboard shortcuts you can use in QuickBooks. Here are a few:

  • Ctrl-I     Create invoice
  • Ctrl-E     Edit transaction selected in register
  • Ctrl-F     Find transaction
  • Ctrl-J     Open Customer Center
  • Ctrl-M     Memorize transaction or report
  • Ctrl-N     New invoice, bill, check, or list item in context
  • Ctrl-Q     QuickReport on transaction or list item
  • Ctrl-T     Open memorized transaction list
  • Ctrl-W     Write new check
  • Ctrl (while opening)     Start QuickBooks without a company file

2. Customize the icon bar.

QuickBooks comes with a default icon bar at the top of the screen. You can add, remove, or modify the icons to better suit your work needs.

To remove an icon: Go to the View menu and click Customize Icon Bar. Select the icon you want to remove and click Delete.

To add an icon: Go to View | Customize Icon Bar and click Add. Select the desired item from the list and change the label and description if you wish. Click OK.

To modify an icon: Go to View | Customize Icon Bar and select the item you want to modify. Click Edit, make your changes, and click OK.

  • The Customize Icon Bar window lets you make other changes to the icon bar. You can also add separators between icons, change the order in which icons appear, and opt to show both icons and text or icons only.

3. Use the QuickMath Calculator.

Happy Business Meeting AccountingThis is cool, especially if you miss the old calculator tape that used to come out of the machine. QuickBooks has its own calculator (click Edit | Use Calculator), but it’s more fun to use the QuickMath Calculator.

  • Click inside the field where you want to calculate (say, the amount field on a check).
  • Press = and a mini-tape will appear.
  • Type the numbers you want to calculate, followed by the appropriate sign (+, -, /, *, or =).
  • Click C once to clear an entry, twice to clear the tape.
  • Press Esc to cancel.

4. Use program preferences.

QuickBooks has a setup wizard that helps you lay the groundwork for your company, but it’s not comprehensive: There are many more decisions you need to make that aren’t covered by the wizard.

Click Edit | Preferences to open the Preferences window. Among the options you can set here are:

  • What are the default accounts for activities like writing checks and paying bills?
  • Do you want a one-window or multi-window view?
  • What is the default annual interest rate?
  • Do you want to use inventory and purchase orders?
  • Do you create estimates?
  • Do you want to use multiple currencies?
  • Do you want to use payroll?
  • What reminders would you like?
  • Do you charge sales tax?
  • Do you track time?

5. Use right-click menus.

QuickBooks makes extensive use of right-click menus everywhere in the program. Try them out anywhere you want to do something instead of heading right for the toolbar icons and menus.

For example, highlight an entry in the Chart of Accounts, and you can perform myriad tasks, such as editing or deleting the account, customizing the columns, transferring funds, or getting a QuickReport.

6. Clean up your Chart of Accounts.

As you go through QuickBooks setup wizard, you’ll indicate what kind of business you have. QuickBooks then assigns a Chart of Accounts (income, expense, and other accounts that serve as the backbone of your bookkeeping) that best matches your needs.

This Chart of Accounts may be overkill for you, or it may not have enough entries for your specific business. Clean it up; it’ll help neaten some reports and make life easier for you.

Click Lists | Chart of Accounts to see what you’ve got, then right-click to customize. Be sure to assign the correct account type—this is critical to the accuracy of your books.

7. Use Classes so you can better track profit and loss.

When you’re working with Preferences, make sure Classes is turned on (Edit |Preferences | Accounting | Company Preferences | Use class tracking). Classes are your own way of categorizing elements of a business. When you enter a transaction, a Class drop-down box will appear; you can create your own Class, such as Marketing, or Advertising, or Building One, or Region A. Then you’ll be able to run a Profit & Loss by Class report.

8. Export reports to Excel.

modernaccountantQuickBooks’ reports are highly customizable, but they don’t have Excel’s power to manipulate and format data and to run what-if scenarios.

You can easily export QuickBooks reports to Excel.

  • Open the report you want to export.
  • Click the Export button at the top of the report.
  • Choose whether to export as a comma-separated values (CSV) file, or into a new or existing Excel workbook.
  • Click the Advanced tab if you want to preserve some of the QuickBooks report formatting options.
  • Click Export.

9. Use Intuit’s free support options.

Intuit charges for phone support if you have an issue involving more than installation or certain bugs and errors. But the company offers plenty of free assistance online.

  • Poke around user forums to see if someone else has had the same problem you’re experiencing—the odds are pretty good, after all—click Help | Live Community.
  • QuickBooks’ program-based help is quite comprehensive. Click Help |QuickBooks Help (or press F1) to search.
  • If that doesn’t work, click Help | Support to search the QuickBooks KnowledgeBase.

10. Back your data up to the cloud.

QuickBooks contains a wizard to walk you through the process of backing up your data to a removable data storage device. If you’d rather Intuit handled your backups and kept them safe, QuickBooks’ Online Backup Service is an option, though not a free one. Plans start at five bucks a month and let you retrieve your files from any computer with an Internet connection.

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